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CANNABIS

Napa City Council approves ordinance allowing retail sales of adult-use cannabis

Marijuana

A bud on a marijuana plant.

Adults will soon be able to purchase cannabis products at the city of Napa’s retail cannabis stores without needing a medical use card. 

The Napa City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance amendment allowing adult-use sales to anyone age 21 and older on a 4-1 vote Tuesday night. The ordinance will come into effect 30 days after the second reading of the amendment is approved, which is set to happen at a future council meeting.

Napa currently only permits medical sales of cannabis, through an ordinance passed in 2017. That means people need a physician-approved cannabis use card to buy cannabis products at any of the city's six dispensaries. And though acquiring a medical use card may take only 10 to 15 minutes, it still represents a financial and logistical hurdle to customers, according to local cannabis retailers. 

As such, local cannabis retailers have said opening up adult-use sales will bring them a considerable financial boost. Aimee Henry, an owner of Napa Cannabis Collective, previously estimated that allowing adult-use would at least triple the number of customers the store serves each month.  

At the virtual meeting Tuesday, several public commenters representing labor groups urged the council to adopt a requirement that commercial cannabis licensees with 10 or more employees enter into a labor peace agreement —essentially a contract allowing those employees to unionize, among much else — with a labor union. California law currently requires cannabis retailers to enter such an agreement when they’ve hired 20 or more non-supervisory employees.

“I think strengthening this labor peace agreement requirement would send a message that Napa is a culture that supports its employees, and I’m just curious why anyone would be against that,” said Danny Bernardini, business manager at the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council.

Out of a desire to not delay approval, the City Council ultimately voted to move forward with the amendment as presented. The passing motion also directed city staff to return with next steps on labor peace agreements and potential limits on the distance between retailers and the number of cannabis retailers allowed in Napa.

Though a 2-year moratorium on new adult-use applications has been suggested by local dispensaries to help them financially stabilize and allow room for the city to enact potential regulations, the councilmembers expressed that they weren't interested in a moratorium. 

Councilmember Liz Alessio, who voted in opposition to the amendment, suggested several changes to the ordinance. For one, she suggested the city limit the number of dispensaries to one store per every 10,000 residents. She also suggested a number of Napa County Public Health recommendations made in a 2018 presentation, such as prohibiting the advertising of cannabis products near school zones.

She said opening “the floodgates” to adult-use applications and then trying to adjust regulations later on could be highly challenging.

Councilmember Beth Painter said, however, that the council should pass the ordinance amendment first and consider the additional regulatory questions in the future.  Painter added she theoretically has no concern with implementing stricter labor peace agreement standards.

“This is an evolving field, there are going to be questions, and I want us to be open to that in the future, but this satisfies, I think, the very first step of what we were trying to accomplish,” Painter said. “I really don’t want to cause delay with unanswered questions.”

Mayor Scott Sedgley said he also wasn’t opposed to adding updated labor peace agreement standards, but doing so could delay approval of the ordinance.

“I’d hate to delay it further,” Sedgley said.

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You can reach Edward Booth at (707) 256-2213.

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